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MSR Titan Kettle Review


Mark Wetherington

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Some of the best things in life are the simplest. For backpackers, there is a pleasure in sipping hot coffee, tea or cocoa from a sleeping bag that borders on the divine. And behind such a simple pleasure is a simple piece of a gear: a kettle, pot or some other means of warming water. I upgraded from a lidless, stainless steel pot leftover from my brief time in Boy Scouts to the MSR Titan Kettle fairly early in my backpacking days and it has proven to be one of the best gear-related investments I made. As a college student it was a bit indulgent to spend $50 at the time (although I was further aided by a 20% off coupon at a local gear shop) on a lighter version of an item I already had, but the purchase is one I never regretted.

MSR Titan Kettle

Looking back, it was also perhaps the catalyst for many other gear investments (strategically timed during post-season sales) as I realized what a difference lightweight, quality gear makes in a hobby like backpacking. Although the MSR Titan Tea Kettle now retails at $59.95 (apparently I should have invested in titanium when I was in college) it still weighs just over 4 ounces, has a .85 liter capacity, and is a piece of gear I’d recommend to any backpacker looking to build up their cooking kit.

MSR Titan in the Snow with Nalgene in Winter

After almost ten years of using this kettle, it has developed a nice coat of character (about as close to patina as titanium can get) but has lost absolutely nothing in regards to function. The handles on the pot still swivel perfectly and the handle for the lid works just as it did when new. The thoughtful design features, such as the slot for the coated lid handle to remain upright so it can be easily removed to check on the contents and the tight-fitting lid and perfectly engineered spout, make this a piece of gear that is hard to imagine improving and the size (0.85 liters) is just right for one person.

MSR Titan Silicone Insulated Lid and Pour Spout

I’ve cooked hundreds of meals in this kettle, from pasta to curry to rice dishes, and although I’ve had to pay careful attention when trying certain backcountry culinary innovations I have never had any issues with food sticking or burning (aside from issues resulting as a result of my own negligence). Adding a bit of extra water helps reduce any issues of burning or sticking, as does being conscious of how hot the stove is burning. I’ve used this kettle primarily with a canister stove (Primus Micron, an MSR Pocket Rocket, or similar) but also with a liquid fuel stove during winter trips. When using a canister stove, a small fuel canister can easily be stored inside which saves spaces in your pack. Its squat design seems to allow for a fair degree of stability on any stove, especially when compared to taller pots that I’ve seen my backcountry companions use. In my years of experience I’ve only managed to knock it over twice and both times were completely my fault.

Fuel Canister Inside MSR Titan Pot

While my recommendation for this product is unequivocally enthusiastic, there are a few common sense items worth pointing out that for the most part will apply to all similar pots. One is that the handles for the pot do tend to get very hot when cooking, especially if wind is whipping the flame around. I keep a small piece of a bandana around to use to protect my fingers when picking up the handles (I just fold it a few times and use it as a barrier) and this also double as a napkin.

A second comment is that there is minimal insulation provided to the contents by the titanium. Water boils quickly and food can be prepared rapidly (such as pasta, which tends to beat the “suggested cooking time” by a few minutes), but in cooler temperatures the meal in the kettle loses its warmth without much delay – especially noticeable if the temperature is below freezing. Generally this hasn’t been a problem for me, as I inhale my food as soon as it’s at a marginally safe temperature – wise to do so, but if you’re the type that likes to eat a few bites, then stare at the clouds for a minute, then eat a few bites, then read a page or two of a book, you might be wishing you had a microwave with you to warm up the last half of the meal in colder weather. Keeping the lid on and wrapping the kettle and remaining food up in a scarf or piece of clothing can help retain the warmth but I’ve rarely had to use this tactic.

Cooking in the MSR Titanium Kettle

Lastly, there is no nonstick coating on this kettle, which is nice because it means you don’t have to worry about your fork scraping a coating off, but it does mean that if you burn some food in the bottom it will take some soaking, scraping, and scrubbing (best done at home) to remove it.

I tend to be fairly loyal to my backpacking gear and this is one item that has my unabashed devotion. The functionality, the durability, the purpose – any item that helps get food in my stomach automatically earns my affection – there are really no major flaws or drawbacks that I’ve noticed in almost a decade of use. This is one piece of gear that I feel like I’ve bonded with more than others, given the food and beverage related memories I’ve created with it. If I ever do end up replacing it, most likely with another MSR Titan Kettle, this one will be going up on the mantle to remind of the meals I’ve enjoyed in Montana’s mountains, Appalachian forests, and Atlantic beaches over the years.

The MSR Titan Kettle retails for $60. Find it here at REI, at Backcountry.com, and on Amazon.com.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Posted

Thanks for the review Mark. Do you double this as a cup / mug as well? Or do you still bring something separate for that purpose? While I like the Evernew Ultralight series from a cooking standpoint, I always bring something separate for beverages. I also have an MLD 850 which I use as a combo pot / mug on some trips...but it's more mug shaped overall really. The Titan looks to be something of an all around blend.

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Mark Wetherington

Posted

You're welcome, it was a fun review to write . . . funny how many memories I have attached to that small piece of titanium.

I have doubled this as a mug/cup on a handful of trips, but for the most part I still bring along a separate mug (Snow Peak titanium cup, 450 ml capacity, 2.4 oz, picture attached below) because of my habits in regard to eating/drinking. I like to sip tea on cool nights while cooking my pasta and drink coffee in the morning while I cook my oatmeal, which requires two separate containers. Hard to habit to change and worth the extra few ounces to me!

When I have used it as a mug, it worked well. Oftentimes when backpacking with a friend we will just use my cook kit for morning coffee if we aren't having oatmeal; I'll drink from the Titan and give my friend the coffee in the Snow Peak cup. It definitely can be used without much awkwardness as a cup, so I would say if you're looking for an all-around blend the Titan fits the bill

MSR Titan Kettle and Mug.JPG

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Posted

I use the exact same Snow Peak 450 cup as well combined with the Evernew...convenient to put it right on the canister stove for a quick warmup when needed if my coffee starts to cool off on those chilly mornings. I've also run into the same conundrum when taking only one mug/pot, but as most of the time I'm rehydrating something in a separate container or freezer bag I've started boiling enough water for tea and the meal together, then having the tea as I wait for the meal to rehydrate. Seems to make the wait time go by a littler faster. Also, on the hot handles issue, I've noticed that if I remember, placing the handles upwind (if the wind direction is steady) even in a light breeze can make for a surprising difference!

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Thanks for the review! I own the same kettle for a few years now, and have been very pleased with it. So pleased I couldn't resist buying a second one (second hand, cost me about 20$) for my girlfriend... 

It can be doubled as a mug as well without any issues, except maybe getting your hot drink not so hot after some time, because as Mark said, titanium loses heat... I made some reflectix cosy for it, didn't try it on the tail yet, but in my kitchen it helps keeping 5°c more for the hot water inside, even 10°c if you add some reflectix lid. 

But if you want to take another cup with you, the toaks 550ml titanium fits inside like a charm. I also noticed that the GSI ultalight mug and bowl (plastic, cheaper option but good too) fits inside too, but it's a tighter fit than the toaks cup (you'll have to take off the lid of the GSI and put it first in the titan kettle, then put the mug and bowl above it). Because if you put the GSI cup with the lid on it, it could be complicated to take it off the titan kettle! 

Hope this helped a little bit!

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